Former Clarkson house league soccer coach Norman Jackson was surprised when he returned to his Mississauga home one evening nearly 16 years ago to discover that his wife, Joan, had signed up his nephew – who was living with them at the time after his parents returned to Jamaica – to play on her husband’s team.
“She said he was going to play soccer and I said alright,” recalled Jackson, who coached Simeon Jackson for a few years before he joined rep teams Mississauga Falcons and Dixie Destroyers.
The young Jackson, who is now 22, was named Canada’s Male Soccer Player of the Year last week.
“He had speed and he could kick with both feet with power which is rare for a youth at a very young age,” recounted the young man’s uncle and legal guardian who is the president of Malton Cricket Club and the Toronto & District Cricket Association’s special events co-ordinator and umpire liaison. “I knew then that he was destined for big things and I am not really surprised at where he’s at right now in his development.”
The senior Jackson, who also served as first vice-president of the Ontario Cricket Association, paid tribute to Jamaican-born coaches Mike Davis (Falcons) and Chris Ellis (Destroyers) for his nephew’s success
“They were an integral part in his development,” he said. “They laid the foundation for him to build on.”
Simeon Jackson represented Canada at the Under-15 and Under-20 levels and scored the game-winner in his senior team debut against Cyprus last May. A week earlier, he also netted the winning goal for his English club side Gillingham against Shrewsbury that earned his club promotion to League One.
“Those two games were the two big highlights for me,” Jackson said. “It’s an honour to win this award and I didn’t even think I was going to be one of the players who were going to get nominated, but it’s good to be recognized on that level.”
Jackson was a member of the national team that reached the quarter-final of this year’s Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Associations of Football’s (CONCACAF) Gold Cup under then interim coach Stephen Hart who called up the young player for two friendly internationals in Europe last November.
‘This is a fantastic achievement for Simeon,” said Hart who was earlier this month named head coach. “He had an excellent club season and performed admirably at the national level.”
Jackson tried out for Coventry eight years ago before moving to England in 2004 to live with a relative in Croydon and hone his soccer skills.
Determined to make it in the English league, Jackson attracted the attention of Rushden & Diamonds who he represented for four seasons and scored 16 goals in 28 starts before joining Gillingham in January 2008 for a transfer fee of £150,000.
He netted 21 goals for the club last season and scored a hat-trick in this season’s opening match against Swindon Town. He’s the club’s leading scorer and so far this season has 13 goals in 13 matches.
Just a few hours after he was named Canada’s Player of the Year, Queen’s Park Rangers manager Paul Hart – he coached Jackson at Rushden & Diamonds – announced that he would make the Canadian player his first signing of the New Year.
Tottenham and Cardiff have also showed an interest in Jackson who edged out midfield player Julian DeGuzman, who won the award last year, and three-time winner Dwayne DeRosario.